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Now this Greek version contains all the books which are found in our Canonical Hebrew Bibles. It is a good witness, therefore, to prove that all these books were in the Canon when this version was made. The Apocryphal books, which have long been connected with this version, will furnish a subject for consideration hereafter.
There is, moreover, a distinct and remarkable testimony to the antiquity of the four books of Moses in the Samaritan Pentateuch, which has existed in a form entirely separate from the Jewish copies, and in a character totally different from that in which the Hebrew Bible has been for many ages written. It has also been preserved and handed down to us by a people who have ever been hostile to the Jews. This Pentateuch has, without doubt, been transmitted through a separate channel, ever since the ten tribes of Israel were carried captive. It furnishes authentic testimony to the great antiquity of the books of Moses, and shows how little they have been corrupted during the lapse of nearly three thousand years.
A POCRYPHAL BOOKS, THEIR ORIGIN-IMPORTANCE OF DISTINGUISHING BE
TWEEN CANONICAL AND APOCRYPHAL BOOKS-SIX BOOKS OF THIS CLASS PRONOUNCED CANONICAL BY THE COUNCIL OF TRENT__NOT IN THE HEBREW, NOR RECEIVED BY THE JEWS ANCIENT OR MODERN.
The word Apocrypha signifies, concealed, obscure, without authority. In reference to the Bible, it is employed to designate such books as claim a place in the sacred volume, but which are not Canonical: it is said to have been first used by Melito, bishop of Sardis.
An inquiry into this subject cannot be uninteresting to the friends of the Bible, for it behoves them to ascertain, on the best evidence, what books belong to the sacred volume, and also on what grounds other books are rejected from the Canon. This subject assumes a higher importance from the fact, that Christians are much divided on this point; for some receive, as of Canonical authority, books which others reject as spurious, or consider merely as human compositions. On
such a point, every Christian should form his opinion upon the best information which he can obtain.
In controversy with the Romanists, this subject meets us at the very threshold. It is vain to dispute about particular doctrines of Scripture until it is determined what books are to be received as Scripture.
It has also been recently found that this was a point of great importance in the circulation of the Bible. This book ought not to be distributed maimed of some of its parts, nor should we circulate mere human compositions as the Word of God. The committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society were recently called upon to decide this question, in a case of great practical importance. That noble and Catholic society have, from time to time, aided the exertions of the pious and liberally-minded members of the Romanist church in circulating their own versions of the new Testament. Here there existed no difference of opinion as to the books which were Canonical; but they lately received an application from that zealous and indefatigable friend of the Bible, Professor Van Ess, to grant him aid from their funds to enable him to put the Old Testament also in circulation among the people of his communion. To this no objection was at first made, and the funds of the Society were applied to aid in printing and circulating, Bibles which contained the Apocrypha, on the continent of Europe. But the Auxiliary Bible Society of Edinburgh, not being satisfied with this proceeding, sent up to the Parent Society a protest against it, as being inconsistent with the radical principle of their constitution, viz. that they would circulate the Bible without note or comment. This brought the question before the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society under very interesting circumstances, and the opinion of the friends of the Society appeared to be much divided; so that great fears were entertained lest it should become the occasion of disturbing the harmony of this important Association. But the business was managed by the Committee with that consummate wisdom which has uniformly marked their counsels and proceedings."
* The whole subject was referred to a select and learned sub-committee, who, after mature deliberation, brought in a report which was adopted, and led to the following wise resolution in the General Committee, viz. “ That the funds of the Society be applied to the printing and circulation of the Canonical books of Scripture, to the exclusion of those books, and
* Note D.
parts of books, which are termed Apocryphal; and that all copies printed, either entirely or in part, at the expense of the Society, and whether such copies consist of the whole, or of any one or more of such books, be invariably issued bound, no other book whatever being bound with them; and farther, that all money grants, to societies or individuals, be made only in conformity with the principle of this regulation.
“In the Sacred Volume, as it is to be hereafter distributed by the Society, there is to be nothing but divine truth, nothing but what is acknowledged by all Christians to be such. Of course, all may unite in the work of distribution, even should they regard the volume as containing but part of the inspired writings, just as they might in the circulation of the Pentateuch, or the Book of Psalms, or the Prophets, or the New Testament. Such harmonious operation would not, however, be possible if the books of the Apocrypha were mingled, or joined with the rest; and besides, those who have the strongest objection to the Apocrypha, are ordinarily those who are most forward in active and liberal efforts to send the word of God to all people.”
This judicious decision of the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society depends for its correctness on the supposition, that the books of the Apocrypha are not Canonical; for whatever may be said about circulating a part of the Bible, it was undoubtedly the original object of this Society to print and circulate the whole of the sacred volume. Hence appears the practical importance of the inquiry which we have here instituted, to ascertain whether these books have any claim whatever to a place in the Sacred Canon.
At a very early period of the Christian Church, great pains were taken to distinguish between such books as were inspired and Canonical, and such as were written by uninspired men. It has never been doubted among Christians that the Canonical books only were of divine authority, and furnished an infallible rule of faith and practice; but it has not been agreed what books ought to be considered Canonical and what Apocryphal. In regard to those which have already been enumerated as belonging to the Old Testament, there is a pretty general consent of Jews and Christians, of Romanists and Protestants; but in regard to some other books there is a wide difference of opinion.
The Council of Trent, in their fourth session, gave a catalogue of the books of the Old Testament, among which are included, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and Two books of the Maccabees. * Besides, they included, under the name of Esther and Daniel, certain additional chapters which are not found in the Hebrew copies. The book of Esther is made to consist of sixteen chapters; and prefixed to the book of Daniel is the History of Susanna; the Song of the Three Children is inserted in the third chapter; and the History of Bel and the Dragon is added at the end of this book. Other books, which are found in the Greek or Latin Bibles, they rejected as Apocryphal; as the third and fourth books of Esdras,t the third book of Maccabees, the cli. Psalm, the Appendix to Job, and the Preface to Lamentations.
Both these classes of books all denominations of Protestants consider Apocryphal; but as the English Church, in her Liturgy, directs that certain lessons shall be read from the former for the instruction of the people, but not for confirmation of doctrine, they are retained in the larger copies of the English Bible, but are not mingled with the Canonical books, as in the vulgate, but placed at the end of the Old
Testament, under the title of Apocrypha. It is certainly to be regretted that these books are permitted to be included in the same volume which contains the Lively Oracles—the Word of God—the Holy Scriptures, all of which were given by inspiration; and more to be regretted still, that they should be read in the church promiscuously with the lessons taken from the Canonical books, especially as no notice is given to the people that what is read from these books is Apocryphal; and as in the Prayer-Book of the Episcopal Church the tables which refer to the lessons to be read have this title prefixed—“ Tables of lessons of Holy Scripture, to be read at Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the year.” Now, however good and instructive these Apocryphal lessons may be, it never can be justified, that they should thus be put on a level with the Word of God. I
See Note A, in Appendix. † The first and second books of Esdras are very frequently called the third and fourth, in which case the two Canonical books, Ezra and Nehemiah, are reckoned the first and second; for both these books have been ascribed to Ezra as their author; but these are not included in the list of Canonical books sanctioned by the Council of Trent, and therefore they do not come into controversy. Indeed, the second of these books is not found even in the Greek, but only in the Latin vulgate, and is so replete with fables and false statements that it has never been esteemed of any value. They are both, however, retained in our larger English Bibles, and are honoured with the foremost place in the order of the Apocryphal books.
See Tables prefixed to the Book of Common Prayer; also the Sixth Article of Religion of the Episcopal Church.
APOCRYPHAL BOOKS NOT IN THE HEBREW.
But it is our object at present to show that none of these books Canonized by the Council of Trent, and inserted in our larger English Bibles, are Canonical. 1. The first
argument by which it may be proved that these books do not belong to the Canon of the Old Testament, is, that they are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They are not written in the Hebrew language, but in the Greek, which was not known to the Jews until long after inspiration had ceased, and the Canon of the Old Testament was closed. It is rendered probable, indeed, that some of them were written originally in the Chaldaic. Jerome testifies this to be the fact, in regard to 1 Maccabees, and Ecclesiasticus ; and he says that he translated the book of Tobit out of Chaldee into Latin; but this book is now found in the Greek, and there is good reason for believing that it was written originally in this language. It is certain, however, that none of these books were composed in the pure Hebrew of the Old Testament.
Hottinger, indeed, informs us that he had seen the whole of the Apocrypha in pure Hebrew among the Jews, but he entertains no doubt that it was translated into that language in modern times; just as the whole New Testament has recently been translated into pure Hebrew.
It is the common opinion of the Jews, and of the Christian Fathers, that Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets.
Books written by uncertain authors afterwards have no claim to be reckoned Canonical; and there is good reason for believing that those books were written long after the time of Ezra and Malachi, and some of them, perhaps, later than the commencement of the Christian era.
2. These books, though probably written by Jews, have never been received into the Canon by that people. In this the ancient and modern Jews are of the same mind. Josephus declares, “That no more than twenty-two books were received as inspired by his nation.” Philo, who refers often to the Old Testament in his writings, never makes the least mention of them; nor are they recognized in the Talmud, as Canonical. Not only. so, but the Jewish Rabbies expressly reject them. Rabbi Azariah, speaking of these books, says, “ They are received by Christians, not by us.'
R. GEDALIAH, after giving a catalogue of the books of the Old Testament, with some account of their authors, adds these words, “ It is worth while to know that the nations of the world wrote many other books, which are included in their system of sacred books, but are not in our hands." To which